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Education in England: a brief history is my copyright. You are welcome to download it and print it for your own personal use, or for use in a school or other educational establishment, provided my name as the author is attached. But you may not publish it, upload it onto any other website, or sell it, without my permission. You are welcome to cite this piece. Education in England: a brief history www. Where a document is shown as a link, the full text is available online. Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland.
Three classes – three commissions Unlike the United States, which by the 1830s was establishing a public school system based on a common education for all its citizens, England, as we have seen, had allowed a divided school system to develop in line with its class structure. 1864 Clarendon Report The Royal Commission on the Public Schools was set up in 1861 ‘to inquire into the Revenue and Management of Certain Colleges and Schools and the studies pursued and instruction given there’. Its report made recommendations relating to the government, management and curriculum of the nine ancient foundations – Eton, Winchester, Westminster, Charterhouse, St Paul’s, Merchant Taylors’, Harrow, Rugby and Shrewsbury. Efficiency, and to carry into effect the main Objects of the Founders thereof’.
It created the Endowed Schools Commission and gave its members considerable powers and duties. 1861 Newcastle Report The Royal Commission on the state of popular education in England, under the chairmanship of the Duke of Newcastle, was appointed in 1858 ‘To inquire into the state of public education in England and to consider and report what measures, if any, are required for the extension of sound and cheap elementary instruction to all classes of the people. The Commission published its six volume report in 1861. Further progress The remaining years of the 19th century saw a raft of legislation which added detail to the state education system which the 1870 Act had begun. In this respect, the two most significant Acts were the Elementary Education Act of 1880, which made school attendance compulsory, and that of 1891, which made elementary education free.
10-13 year olds were illegally employed. 1870 Act had begun, as it decreed that elementary education was to be provided free. The Newcastle Commission recommended that a grant should be paid in respect of every child who, having attended an elementary school, passed an examination in reading, writing and arithmetic. Relaxing the Code Over the following thirty years the initial strict conditions were gradually relaxed: more freedom of classification was allowed, the tests were made more elastic and the exams were taken by sample only. From about 1892 the standards system began to fall into disuse and it was finally abandoned by the Board of Education around the turn of the century, except for a few special purposes such as examining candidates for Labour certificates. The 1876 Education Act provided for a system of certificates, which gave free education for three years to pupils who had passed the Standard IV examination at 10 years of age and held a certificate of regular attendance for five years.
Infant schools One important effect of the 1870 Act was to make infant schools or departments a permanent part of the new public elementary schools. As a consequence, most of the dame schools, which had survived in large numbers up to 1870, disappeared in the following decade. Higher Grade Schools A number of children remained at school after passing the new seventh standard, and eventually central ‘higher grade schools’ were created for these children. Most of these higher grade schools had an upper portion arranged as an ‘organised science course or school’ under the Science and Art Department.
A number of school boards, especially those in large urban areas, devoted much attention to the development of these higher grade schools. The exterior remains essentially the same today. The building is now part of Wolverhampton College. The ‘head class’ was composed of boys drawn from miles around. Cross Commission on Elementary Education In the last twenty years of the 19th century there was much debate about the extent to which the elementary schools could provide an adequate education for the more able children. Some witnesses to the Cross Commission argued that this role would be better filled by secondary schools, to which children might be promoted by means of exhibitions.
Bryce Commission on Secondary Education The Royal Commission on Secondary Education reviewed the progress that had been made since the report of the Taunton Commission. It found that over half of the 4,200 undergraduates of Oxford and Cambridge in 1894 came from the 89 schools represented on the Headmasters’ Conference, 17 per cent came from other schools in England and nearly as many from private study or home tuition. Girls’ education As we have already seen, the Schools Inquiry Commission found a lamentable lack of provision for the education of girls. 1978 Warnock Report Special Educational Needs, which itself was largely based on DG Pritchard’s 1963 book Education and the Handicapped 1760-1960. Act of 1872 specifically included disabled children among those for whom provision was to be made, but in 1874 the London School Board established a class for the deaf at a public elementary school and later began the training of teachers. By 1888 there were 14 centres attached to ordinary schools, catering for 373 children.
Provision for the physically and mentally handicapped There was even less provision for the educational needs of physically and mentally handicapped children. Those who attended elementary schools profited as best they could from the ordinary teaching, while the more severely handicapped received care – and sometimes education – in institutions. Before the 1870 Education Act the needs of mentally handicapped children were mostly ignored. Provision for defective and epileptic children A Committee on Defective and Epileptic Children, under the Chief Inspector of Schools, was established by the Education Department in 1896 and published its report in 1898. Like the earlier Royal Commission, the Committee had to grapple with definitions.